Palestine Goes It Alone

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The wall separating Israel and Palestine. Oliver Weiken / EPA-Corbis

Odds are that 2011 won't be the year Israelis and Palestinians make peace. Expect instead a Palestinian push toward independence by other means. President Mahmoud Abbas is asking other countries for formal recognition of Palestine as an independent, sovereign state, and officials close to him would like a new U.N. Security Council resolution on the same score, setting the 1967 border as the legal boundary between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

It would be easy to dismiss such efforts as futile. (Remember Yasir Arafat's 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence? If not, you have plenty of company.) But Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, are serious about a peaceful state even if negotiations remain stalled. Their reforms have transformed the West Bank into an island of economic growth (7 percent in 2009; 8 percent this year) and improved security even by Israeli standards (Israel's troop levels in the West Bank are lower than they've been since the early 1990s). At the very least, a unilateral move would raise pressure on Israel to propose an alternative. There's likely to be resistance in Washington, but recent polls say roughly half the Palestinians now prefer the one-state model—a "solution" that's unlikely to bring peace. Because by the time Israel is ready to accept a viable Palestinian state, it could be too late.